Your Options for School Systems in Ontario

If you’re relocating to Ontario with children, you’re probably eager to understand the options for  their schooling.  It’s important to think about your family’s personal needs, and there’s no one correct choice. Luckily, the school systems in Ontario offer a diverse and reputable selection ranging from public secular and religious school, French-language options, and variety of private schools.  We at are here to help you understand each of the School Systems in Ontario.

Public School Systems in Ontario:

There are four publicly funded school systems in Ontario.

English public: This option is available to all students. There are 31 English public schools across the province.

English Catholic:  There are 29 English Catholic Schools. Ontario is the only province that funds English Catholic school exclusively by taxpayers. In Catholic School, students are required to study religion.

French public: French public school is reserved for students whose parents are “French Language rights holders,” which means it difficult for anglophone children, or those with another language background to matriculate here. However, many English public schools offer French immersion programs at which they study the majority of their subjects in French. There are four French public school systems in Ontario.

French Catholic: Like French public school, French Catholic school is reserved for students whose parents are “French Language rights holders,” which means  most anglophone children or those with another language background most likely won’t matriculate here. Students are required to study religion, in addition to the Ontario academic curriculum. There are eight French Catholic school systems in Ontario.

Additionally, there are alternative schools within the public school system, and they have been growing in popularity for nearly the past decade. These sometimes offer nontraditional teaching methods, or cater to a specific demographic of students, like those with special needs or children who are gifted. Some examples include the Afrocentric School, which was created to improve retention rate amongst black students in Toronto, DSBN Academy for those who may lack access to educational resources, and Eden High School in St. Catharine’s, which is religion-based.

For more about public education in Ontario, visit the Ministry of Education.

Private Schools in Ontario:

School Systems in Ontario

The private schools system includes a diverse and innovative array of primary school and secondary school educational institutions. Considered by some to offer a more rigorous educational experience for students, programs the range includes experimental, special needs, religious, gifted, boarding schools or day schools, and schools that focus on a particular area of interest, like the arts or sports. It’s important to understand that because private schools are not publicly funded, they cost more than public schools – anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 per year (for boarding schools).

If you’re considering enrolling your child in a private school, it’s important to begin the application process early, sometimes as early as two years before you would like your child to enroll.

Here’s some information and advice about the enrollment process: 

  • It’s a great idea to visit multiple private schools during open house days, to get a feel for the environment and community before choosing which schools to pursue.
  • Most private school admissions process includes an exam. This assesses the prospective student’s proficiency level in subjects including math, language arts, logic and other subjects. There is no officially designated exam format, so each school could do it differently.
  • In addition to an exam, children may be asked to go through an interviewing process or submit a portfolio of work.
  • You’ll probably want your child to apply to more than one school, as he/she may not be admitted to some. It’s also great to have options if he/she is selected for more than one!
  • It may be the case that your child is placed on a waiting list. If this occurs, it’s not a guarantee that a spot will open up, but there’s a significant chance of it happening because many students choose not to go to a school to which they are admitted.

For more about private schools in Ontario, you can visit this Our Kids website.

From all of us at, we hope this helps your kids hit the books!


Planning on enrolling your children in school in Ontario? Sign up for and get full access to “The Guide.” Read the “Education” chapter for more information on this topic.

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(Photos: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Simone Meier via Flickr, EaglebrookSchool via Flickr)


About Jerry

Before my family and I relocated to Canada where I received a teaching opportunity at one of the country’s renowned universities, my wife and kids were naturally full of questions. What would the schools be like? How does healthcare work? Is Canadian French very different than European French? What about Canadian English verses European English? How cold are those frigid northern winters we’ve heard so much about? The only way to fully understand a new city or country is to experience it first-hand. My family and I decided to embrace our relocation as an adventure. Years after the move, we still consider “The Great White North” our home, and we couldn’t be more satisfied with our quality of life here. // Avant que ma famille et moi-même soyons relocalisés au Canada parce que j’ai eu l’opportunité d’aller enseigner dans l’une des universités assez réputée du pays, ma femme et mes enfants avaient naturellement beaucoup de questions. A quoi ressemblent les écoles ? Comment fonctionne le système de santé ? Le français canadien est-il vraiment différent de celui parlé en France ? L’anglais canadien est-il vraiment différent de celui parlé en Europe? Est-ce que les hivers sont vraiment très rigoureux? La meilleure façon de comprendre entièrement une nouvelle ville et un pays est d’en faire personnellement l’expérience. Ma famille et moi avons décidé de voir la relocalisation comme une aventure. Quelques années plus tard, nous considérons “Le Grand Nord Blanc” comme notre maison et nous ne pourrions pas être plus satisfaits.